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dinner, interrupted--and my beautiful dog

I really wish that Frank had not eaten my voice posts this month... I need to rant, and I need to rant about something that I truly hope does not scare off any of my sighted readers. In fact, I hope you will read this and help me to educate people because this particular issue is very difficult for me to deal with.

This evening, I went to dinner with some friends. Two of us have dog guides. We were in the middle of a rather sensitive discussion, and an elderly couple came by the table and said we had beautiful dogs. I turned and said, "Thank you," and then turned back toward my friends, trying to indicate that I did not want to chat about my dog. They actually stood there and kept on asking questions. Each time I would turn, answer as absolutely briefly as I could without being rude, and turn away.

This is the second incident like this in a few days' time. On Monday, we were eating out, and someone came up and asked to pet the dogs while we were in the middle of a discussion. I wasn't as polite then. I was in pain and full of a lot of coffee, and I had a lot more boldness. I said to the person, "We're eating!" I was hoping to get across the message that the dinner table is not the place to pet dogs and that I didn't appreciate being interrupted any more than they would if they were conversing over dinner.

I really don't know how to handle these situations at all. I have gone through my life with an overemphasis on the importance of social skills. I've been expected to learn what is right and wrong in what is expected in various situations, what is considered intrusive, etc. Sighted people here, there, and everywhere have no problem correcting whatever behavior or practice of mine they don't like. So I find it very offensive when sighted people intrude on my space, don't respect my privacy, etc.--all the basic things people have been teaching me since early childhood. But the proper response isn't to lash out at them. But hte proper response is also not to allow myself to be intruded upon. So I need to find an adequate solution...


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 30th, 2007 03:05 am (UTC)
You and me both!!! This is always a very difficult issue to deal with because on the one hand we're taught from a young age to be polite and courteous but on the other, just as you said, it's rude and offensive to be intruded upon. I cannot fathom the shere audacity of people to make rude comments on the street, while eating, ETC., ETC. Where did people get the message that it's okay to treat us like second-class citizens and to refer to us in the third person?
Mar. 30th, 2007 03:14 am (UTC)
oh sigh I am so sorry you had to deal with this. My favorite line is when some well meaning soul comes up to me and says "I donate every year to XYZ guide dog organization... do you get your dog from there?" I just want to snap back with "don't wrench your arm out of it's socket by patting yourself on the back.
Charrity is it's own reward, and my dog is from the pound, actually."

I am so sorry you're dealing with this, you are much nicer than I am though.
and one of the benefits of deafy-hood is that since I've lost my hearing I can ignore them without really ignoring them, if you know what I mean. My guide dog is a border collie and she ignores them too because she's antisocial like that.
Mar. 30th, 2007 03:15 am (UTC)
I think it's totally OK to say "I'm sorry, I'd love to converse with you, but I'm eating". I've done it before. People usually see what they are doing then, and you are still being polite.
Mar. 30th, 2007 03:17 am (UTC)
With regard to the person who wanted to pet the dog while you were eating, a firm, but polite, "I'm sorry, but no. I'm in the middle of dinner" (followed by a quick smile) then turning back to your conversation, would suffice I would think.

Regarding the people who wouldn't stop asking questions, after the "thank you" to their initial compliment about your dog, any further comment or question could be met with a firm, but pleasant, "Thank you very much for your interest, but I am in the middle of a conversation and trying to enjoy my dinner right now." Then smile kindly and turn back to your dinner. If you are polite & pleasant, but they think you're rude or something, that's THEIR problem.

You need to set boundaries for yourself, and then remember that people will only cross them if you let them. And if you're polite, pleasant, and even kind while still being firm, then people are much less likely to be offended. But if you ARE pleasant and kind but people are offended, again - that's their problem. You are not responsible for how people respond to you, only for your own actions.
Mar. 30th, 2007 10:04 am (UTC)
I can totally understand where you are coming from. It seems that we are so afraid of being rude and offending the sighted world that we just have a hard time standing up for ourselves. I've been tuilty of snapping at people when I just don't feel like educating another sighted person about the world of blindness and guide dogs. It is fine to just say, thanks for your compliment but I am eating now. I've tried to do this with a smile but sometimes it just doesn't happen!
Mar. 30th, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)
Well, generally, unless someone really pushes my buttons (and hey, we're human, it's gonna happen), I say, "It's best if she's not petted while she's in harness." I've started saying this instead of, "...while she's working," because some people think the dog isn't working if she's just lying there. I do understand about not wanting to be rude to people, but sometimes someone asks a certain question, and there's no possible way for them to know they're the eight hundredth person to ask you that day, and there's no possible way for you to be as nice to them as you were to person number one. Just do the best you can. But I do find that what I said above tends to get the point across rather quickly. It might not stop them from talking to you, but it will stop them from handling your dog most of the time. I was talking to a friend a few days ago, telling her how people with disabilities are not viewed as having personal space--possibly because we're not viewed as "adults." I don't think this is ever, ever going to change, unfortunately.
Mar. 30th, 2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
As a sighted person, I think this answer would be the best (coming from my perspective). I think people, for whatever ridiculous reason, wouldn't think that you wanting to eat is a sufficient reason for not getting to pet your guide dog. It sounds silly, but that's how a lot of people would see the issue. If you explain kindly that she's working or in harness and should not be pet at that time, most people would understand and probably leave you alone after that :)

At least I *think* they would...I could be totally wrong though. Just wanted to put in my 2 cents and say that coming from an outside perspective on this, I'm thinking this response would probably have the best effect!
Mar. 30th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
Comment from a sighted person. :) I hope you don't mind. (This is Margaret Mary.)

I liked the comment where the person said to firmly, politely state that you are involved in a conversation, smile, and turn back to the people you were talking with. I'm sorry to say that many of us who are sighted have NOT gone through our lives with an overemphasis on the importance of social skills. :) I have had people come up in restaurants to comment on our large family ("Are they all yours?"), and then go on to ask us questions about our family. Some people with large families HATE the "Are they all yours" question. But it can be meant bad or good. I've sometimes been the one to ask similar questions of a family. And I myself have kept total strangers from going into the store they were visiting, while I asked them all about their car! (I think they think I want to buy a car just like theirs in the near future, and I might SOME DAY, but I basically just like cars...and people.) Sometimes what you're experiencing from others is rude on their part, but it may or may not be meant as rude nor as condescending. Some people love to meet new people and they look for anything they can talk about. It may not always be BECAUSE you are blind or because you have a guide dog, but the dog gives them a way to meet a stranger. I'm not trying to downplay that some people really ARE condescending, or overly curious; I'm sure you can know that some are, by the way they speak. And even people who are just friendly - and would be the same way with someone else, with some other way to introduce a conversation - may be intrusive. So, again, I like the thing about letting them know politely but firmly what works for you, that you are in the middle of a conversation with your friends, and that you want to continue that conversation. And maybe some of us who haven't had as much emphasis on social skills need to be careful of how much we intrude on other people's space. :) I hope I'm not doing that here by adding my comment. :)

Mar. 30th, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks for adding your comment... I hope you see my reply. *smile* I usually don't mind a quick question or comment where I can briefly thank the person and go back to my conversation... Or if I'm walking and someone walks along and converses with me it doesn't bother me unless I'm just moody, and that's not the other person's problem. I just couldn't believe that people would interrupt my dinner conversation and then continue on asking even after I turned away and kept talking and they were supposedly on the way to their table. I think part of my seemingly rude reaction is really driven by shock because the overemphasis on social skills for me has sort of given me the impression that all sighted people must know how to act appropriately since no one ever confronts them about their social skills but people feel so free to do this to me. It is a very emotional issue for me on a lot of levels, and I can't figure out how to put it in words. I think that mostly it's an anger about the idea that it's ok for someone to intrude on my personal space for any reason, including to wipe my mouth for me or push my hair back because they're uncomfortable with the fact that I haven't pushed it out of my face when the wind blew it, etc, but it isn't ok for me to ask someone not to do something that I find offensive because it's considered rude. Asking someone politely not to pet my dog would be an exception because there is a practical reason... I'm sort of rambling here, but I think I've stumbled on a general annoyance that's been bugging me lately.
Mar. 31st, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
Re: thanks
Yep, I came to look at the comments, so I saw your reply. (smile). Maybe part of my point is that many people in the general world do NOT have good social skills. Okay, and maybe I shouldn't have used myself because while I may not have the best social skills, I at least care about others. Some of my kids and I have worked with the public, and many people are just plain rude and selfish. You said something about your seemingly rude reaction. I don't think your reaction was rude in any way! Maybe what I want you to know is that it isn't about you (and it isn't necessarily about blindness), it's about the other person having problems (whether their problem is lack of training or just plain selfishness...or whatever problems they may have). Those who try to wipe your face (hey, you actually shocked me with that one; I don't shock easily) are being very rude! I'm not saying they're bad people; maybe you're talking about a friend, for all I know. I am just saying it's rude behavior, and that's the other person's problem. It becomes your problem only because you have to deal with it. But if you assert yourself - or if you assert yourself with someone interrupting your conversation - I do not believe that is being rude on your part! You said "it isn't okay for me to ask someone not to do something that I find offensive because it's considered rude." I hope I didn't come across as thinking that, because I don't. I don't know who says that, but I believe it's very wrong. Anyone can tell anyone politely (and firmly!) whatever makes them uncomfortable. And that should be respected. It won't always BE respected, because people are people. Blind or sighted, black or white, Christian or Muslim, child or adult. People are sometimes very self-centered. People also sometimes mean well, but make a mistake (and may even go home kicking themselves for it). Anyway, I totally agree with you that the person shouldn't have kept interrupting your dinner conversation, and I hope talking about it helps (and that my adding my comments don't hinder it helping). My kids (and I when I worked) often came home talking about how rude customers had been to us, and I think being able to talk about it helps to get it off your chest.
Mar. 30th, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC)
When you get the answer to that let me know. This very thing has ruined many more days than it should for me.
Apr. 1st, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
I think there's a difference between lashing out at people and asserting your right to privacy. If I'm talking, eating, etc., and someone comments to me about Caroline, I thank them, and continue with whatever I was doing before the interruption. If they continue to talk at me, I turn back to them, and say something like, "I appreciate your interest, but right now isn't a very good time to talk." Then, I go on with what I was doing.

Many sighted people seem to have a sense of entitlement to blind people. I'm not really sure why this is, but it definitely seems to exist. My supervisor commented on it just this week, when some person I didn't know ran up and hugged me. It was way creepy, and she made the comment that people felt entitled to me.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah Blake LaRose
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